A regular Saturday at the upscale Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, turned into a bloody nightmare that lasted four days when gunmen stormed in without warning and shot people inside and outside the mall and threw hand grenades. The terrorists went from room to room, taking people hostage and shooting randomly.
Who is responsible?
The Somali Al Shabaab movement took responsibility for the attack as response to Kenyan army operations in Somalia. Kenyan security forces got to work surrounding the mall, rescuing hostages and killing terrorists. While there has been no definite indication of the nationalities of the attackers, the wife of one of the London bombings suspect, who is known as the “white widow”, was linked to this siege. Samantha Lewthwaite was reportedly shouting orders to gunmen at the mall in Arabic. Al Shabaab is fighting to build an Islamic state in Somalia.
Extent of damage
At the end of the four-day siege, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya declared that more than 70 civilians and six members of the security forces had lost their lives in the attack. At least 170 people have been injured and several are missing. Three floors of the mall collapsed in an explosion at the end of the siege, trapping civilians and attackers under it. The numbers are bound to increase as bodies are recovered in the days to come. At least 18 foreigners are among the dead — including six Britons, and citizens of India, France, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, Peru, South Africa, Ghana and China.
The attackers, according to a survivor, wanted to kill only Americans and Kenyans. Through the siege, Kenyan authorities kept reassuring the world that they have control over the situation. Kenya observed three days of mourning with the flag at half mast. Families of victims have been grieving, and survivors have taken to media to give eyewitness accounts of what happened inside the mall.
The Kenyan troops were backed by helicopters and personnel from USA, Britain, France and Israel. Eleven people have been arrested in connection with the attack and five others have been killed. Kenyatta remarked, “Kenya has stared down evil and triumphed. As a nation, our head is bloodied, but unbowed. The criminals found us unafraid, as we ever shall be. We cannot be conquered. These cowards will meet justice, as will their accomplices and patrons, wherever they are.” Kenyan police and security agency has been criticised for security lapses and for misleading the world with claims that the siege was over on Sunday.